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Design: The Biggest Barrier to Financial Equality

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Design: The Biggest Barrier to Financial Equality

By  Sam Gormley, the founder of Osaka Labs

Introduction: The Financial Gap

On one hand, we see the world in the throes of a financial revolution, with a multitude of digital financial solutions replacing conventional banking. On the other hand, 2 billion adults in the world are still bereft of basic financial services.

The goal of creating a world with equal financial opportunities requires the propensity to think universally. A person living in a developing country might have vastly different aims, preferences and level of financial awareness than a citizen living in elsewhere. Furthermore, a reluctance can be seen in many individuals who want to dive into finance, like students involved in a start-up, single mothers juggling family finances, older people after retirement and so on. This is where design comes in as a potential solution. In light of the digitisation of finance, design is what lies between the user and the service, and it can make or break the interaction between them. Hence, even in an area that is typically not design focused i.e. finance, design plays a monumental role. The question that now remains is:

 How do we use design effectively to counter complexity, cater diversity and contribute to the financial stability of the world?

The Problems: What Lies in the Way of Financial Equality

While good design can be the ultimate perpetuator of financial equality, ineffective design can be the complete opposite of it. There are many things that might render the user experience unfruitful, resulting in the user being repelled by the product when the actual goal was to make it more attractive. 

  1. The Complex Nature of Financial Services

The field of finance is mired by tortuous graphs, bar-charts, and mind-numbing statistics. It is no surprise that most financial services can ward off people if not presented in an easily comprehensible, and appealing form. The challenge lies in conveying these complex concepts to the average user without overwhelming them or scaring them away. 

  1. The Use of Technical Language

Language is the biggest asset for effective communication and oftentimes technicality of the language makes for an unsavory user experience. A user bombarded with financial jargon is most likely to abandon his foray into the financial world as soon as he begins. Design heavily based on complicated terms can end up creating a language barrier that is quite difficult for the user to overcome. Instead of technicality, designers should opt for outcome-based language which an outsider can comprehend. 

  1. The Aversion to Financial Discussion

It might be considered boring to discuss finance. Many people take one look at it and conclude that they cannot understand it since it is not their field of work. As a result, people tiptoe around financial discourse because of a lack of comfort and exposure to something that seems quite formidable to comprehend.

The Solution: Breaking Design Barriers

Until recently, design was not prioritized when it came to financial solutions. However, as more and more people from all parts of the world journey into the world of digital finance, the demand for inclusive, user-centric design has grown exponentially.

Design and Experience-focused Strategy

User Experience Design (UXD) is the ultimate tool in this battle for inclusivity. Placing user experience at the top of the list of priorities, designers conceive services based on what the user wants and can easily understand. This practice leads to the creation of simple, intelligent and accessible services that can be tailored and customized to suit a user’s needs. 

Maintaining Simplicity

Complexity can act as an obstacle which stops people from embracing financial services. In order to revolutionize the lives of ordinary people, the user experience needs to be simplified in its interface and language. This can be done by creating a user-friendly interface in the context of the user’s needs. Simplification does not mean that the service provides the bare minimum functionality to its users, it simply means that the users get what they require in a way which they can make sense of. 

Research the Impact of Financial Digitisation

With the growing availability of internet services and smartphones around the world, FinTech has certainly disrupted the financial market in more ways than one. Designing such a digital solution can only be done once the true impact and usage of such services are evaluated. Visiting youth centers or gathering data on the popularity of FinTech in your particular country can facilitate design and enhance inclusivity. 

Inclusive, Wide Range Testing

If the design was undertaken through an inclusive approach, the testing phase needs to be just as inclusive. Apart from in-house testing, services should also be tested by people belonging to the targeted group of users. Since user experience is at the heart of this endeavor, feedback through testing will be valuable in building a user-focused financial solution. 

Design for Customisation

As a designer, one cannot think of public as a herd with similar taste and thought process to escape customisation. Customisation requires the UI and dashboard to be tailored according to the user’s liking. For example, a young student starting out may not have the need of complex functionality or the need to keep track of large transactions as a businessman does. This difference in requirements is what calls for the need for customisation.

Conclusion: The Future of Design and Finance

Today, FinTech is at the forefront of a major wave of disruption and has emerged as a tool with amazing potential. Even rigid financial institutions are slowly thawing to the idea of embracing it and in the near future, most major banks will find it profitable to partner with FinTech firms.

With people from different cultures, native languages and levels of education wanting to enter the folds of the global economy, by 2022, the financial landscape of will be much more populated than it is now. In that context, user experience based design for FinTech is vital to the endeavour of bringing financial services to all. It will be up to the designers to eliminate these differences, bridge the financial gap and create a user-friendly experience. The ultimate goal is to use design as a facilitator instead of a barrier to encourage inclusivity and establish a measure of financial equality.

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‘Spooky’ AI tool brings dead relatives’ photos to life

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'Spooky' AI tool brings dead relatives' photos to life 1

By Umberto Bacchi

(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Like the animated paintings that adorn the walls of Harry Potter’s school, a new online tool promises to bring portraits of dead relatives to life, stirring debate about the use of technology to impersonate people.

Genealogy company MyHeritage launched its “Deep Nostalgia” feature earlier this week, allowing users to turn stills into short videos showing the person in the photograph smiling, winking and nodding.

“Seeing our beloved ancestors’ faces come to life … lets us imagine how they might have been in reality, and provides a profound new way of connecting to our family history,” MyHeritage founder Gilad Japhet said in a statement.

Developed with Israeli computer vision firm D-ID, Deep Nostalgia uses deep learning algorithms to animate images with facial expressions that were based on those of MyHeritage employees.

Some of the company’s users took to Twitter on Friday to share the animated images of their deceased relatives, as well as moving depictions of historical figures, including Albert Einstein and Ancient Egypt’s lost Queen Nefertiti.

“Takes my breath away. This is my grandfather who died when I was eight. @MyHeritage brought him back to life. Absolutely crazy,” wrote Twitter user Jenny Hawran.

While most expressed amazement, others described the feature as “spooky” and said it raised ethical questions. “The photos are enough. The dead have no say in this,” tweeted user Erica Cervini.

From chatbots to virtual reality, the tool is the latest innovation seeking to bring the dead to life through technology.

Last year U.S. rapper Kanye West famously gifted his wife Kim Kardashian a hologram of her late father congratulating her on her birthday and on marrying “the most, most, most, most, most genius man in the whole world”.

‘ANIMATING THE PAST’

The trend has opened up all sorts of ethical and legal questions, particularly around consent and the opportunity to blur reality by recreating a virtual doppelganger of the living.

Elaine Kasket a psychology professor at the University of Wolverhampton in Britain who authored a book on the “digital afterlife”, said that while Deep Nostalgia was not necessarily “problematic”, it sat “at the top of a slippery slope”.

“When people start overwriting history or sort of animating the past … You wonder where that ends up,” she said.

MyHeritage acknowledges on its website that the technology can be “a bit uncanny” and its use “controversial”, but said steps have been taken to prevent abuses.

“The Deep Nostalgia feature includes hard-coded animations that are intentionally without any speech and therefore cannot be used to fake any content or deliver any message,” MyHeritage public relations director Rafi Mendelsohn said in a statement.

Yet, images alone can convey meaning, said Faheem Hussain, a clinical assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

“Imagine somebody took a picture of the Last Supper and Judas is now winking at Mary Magdalene – what kind of implications that can have,” Hussain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Similarly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) animations could be use to make someone appear as though they were doing things they might not be happy about, such as rolling their eyes or smiling at a funeral, he added.

Mendelsohn of MyHeritage said using photos of a living person without their consent was a breach of the company’s terms and conditions, adding that videos were clearly marked with AI symbols to differentiate them from authentic recordings.

“It is our ethical responsibility to mark such synthetic videos clearly and differentiate them from real videos,” he said.

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi in Milan; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

 

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Does your institution have operational resilience? Testing cyber resilience may be a good way to find out

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REMOTE WORKING STRATEGY REQUIRED TO STRENGTHEN CYBER RESILIENCE

By Callum Roxan, Head of Threat Intelligence, F-Secure

If ever 2020 had a lesson, it was that no organization can possibly prepare for every conceivable outcome. Yet building one particular skill will make any crisis easier to handle: operational resilience.

Many financial institutions have already devoted resources to building operational resilience. Unfortunately, this often takes what Miles Celic, Chief Executive Officer of TheCityUK, calls a “near death” experience for this conversion to occur. “Recent years have seen a number of cases of loss of reputation, reduced enterprise value and senior executive casualties from operational incidents that have been badly handled,” he wrote.

But it need not take a disaster to learn this vital lesson.

“Operational resilience means not only planning around specific, identified risks,” Charlotte Gerken, the executive director of the Bank of England, said in a 2017 speech on operational resilience. “We want firms to plan on the assumption that any part of their infrastructure could be impacted, whatever the reason.” Gerken noted that firms that had successfully achieved a level of resilience that survives a crisis had established the necessary mechanisms to bring the business together to respond where and when risks materialised, no matter why or how.

We’ll talk about the bit we know best here; by testing for cyber resilience, a company can do more than prepare for the worst sort of attacks it may face. This process can help any business get a clearer view of how it operates, and how well it is prepared for all kinds of surprises.

Assumptions and the mechanisms they should produce are the best way to prepare for the unknown. But, as the boxer Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” The aim of cyber resilience is to build an effective security posture that survives that first punch, and the several that are likely to follow. So how can an institution be confident that they’ve achieved genuine operational resilience?

This requires an organization to honestly assess itself through the motto inscribed at the front of the Temple of Delphi: “Know thyself.” And when it comes to cyber security, there is a way for an organization to test just how thoroughly it comprehends its own strengths and weaknesses.

Callum Roxan

Callum Roxan

The Bank of England was the first central bank to help develop the framework for institutions to test the integrity of their systems. CBEST is made up of controlled, bespoke, intelligence-led cyber security tests that replicate behaviours of those threat actors, and often have unforeseen or secondary benefits. Gerken notes that the “firms that did best in the testing tended to be those that really understood their organisations. They understood their own needs, strengths and weaknesses, and reflected this in the way they built resilience.”

In short, testing cyber resilience can provide clear insight into an institution’s operational resilience in general.

Gaining that specific knowledge without a “near-death” experience is obviously a significant win for any establishment. And testing for operational resilience throughout the industry can provide some reminders of the steps every organization should take so that testing provides unique insists about their institution, and not just a checklist of cyber defence basics.

The IIF/McKinsey Cyber Resilience Survey of the financial services industry released in March lasy year provided six sets of immediate actions that institutions could take to improve their cyber security posture. The toplines of these recommendations were:

  1. Do the basics, patch your vulnerabilities.
  2. Review your cloud architecture and security capabilities.
  3. Reduce your supply chain risk.
  4. Practice your incident response and recovery capabilities.
  5. Set aside a specific cyber security budget and prioritise it
  6. Build a skilled talent pool and optimize resources through automation.

But let’s be honest: If simply reading a solid list of recommendations created cyber resilience, cyber criminals would be out of business. Unfortunately, cyber crime as a business is booming and threat actors targeting essential financial institutions through cyber attacks are likely earning billions in the trillion dollar industry of financial crime.A list can’t reveal an institution’s unique weaknesses, those security failings and chokepoints that could shudder operations, not just during a successful cyber attack but during various other crises that challenge their operations. And the failings that lead to flaws in an institution’s cyber defence likely reverberate throughout the organization as liabilities that other crises would likely expose.

The best way to get a sense of operational resilience will always be to simulate the worst that attackers can summon. That’s why the time to test yourself is now, before someone else does.

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Thomson Reuters to stress AI, machine learning in a post-pandemic world

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By Kenneth Li and Nick Zieminski

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Thomson Reuters Corp will streamline technology, close offices and rely more on machines to prepare for a post-pandemic world, the news and information group said on Tuesday, as it reported higher sales and operating profit.

The Toronto-headquartered company will spend $500 million to $600 million over two years to burnish its technology credentials, investing in AI and machine learning to get data faster to professional customers increasingly working from home during the coronavirus crisis.

It will transition from a content provider to a content-driven technology company, and from a holding company to an operational structure.

Thomson Reuters’ New York- and Toronto-listed shares each gained more than 8%.

It aims to cut annual operating expenses by $600 million through eliminating duplicate functions, modernizing and consolidating technology, as well as through attrition and shrinking its real estate footprint. Layoffs are not a focus of the cost cuts and there are no current plans to divest assets as part of this plan, the company said.

“We look at the changing behaviors as a result of COVID … on professionals working from home working remotely being much more reliant on 24-7, digital always-on, sort of real-time always available information, served through software and powered by AI and ML (machine learning),” Chief Executive Steve Hasker said in an interview.

Sales growth is forecast to accelerate in each of the next three years compared with 1.3% reported sales growth for 2020, the company said in its earnings release.

Thomson Reuters, which owns Reuters News, said revenues rose 2% to $1.62 billion, while its operating profit jumped more than 300% to $956 million, reflecting the sale of an investment and other items.

Its three main divisions, Legal Professionals, Tax & Accounting Professionals, and Corporates, all showed higher organic quarterly sales and adjusted profit. As part of the two-year change program, the corporate, legal and tax side will operate more as one customer-facing entity.

Adjusted earnings per share of 54 cents were ahead of the 46 cents expected, based on data from Refinitiv.

The company raised its annual dividend by 10 cents to $1.62 per share.

The Reuters News business showed lower revenue in the fourth quarter. In January, Stephen J. Adler, Reuters’ editor-in-chief for the past decade, said he would retire in April from the world’s largest international news provider.

Thomson Reuters also said its stake in The London Stock Exchange is now worth about $11.2 billion.

The LSE last month completed its $27-billion takeover of data and analytics business Refinitiv, 45%-owned by Thomson Reuters.

(Reporting by Ken Li, writing by Nick Zieminski in New York, editing by Louise Heavens and Jane Merriman)

 

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